IN a new round of talks to kickstart the peace process in the Middle East, Barack Obama's special envoy George Mitchell has met government leaders in Syria, Israel and Egypt and held parleys with the Palestinian Authority. Mr Mitchell has said the US is interested in 'truly comprehensive' peace settlement that includes normal relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. No peace process in the Middle East can succeed unless there is a move towards the creation of a viable and sovereign Palestinians state. What is required for this is the removal of the existing Israeli settlements. The illegal settlements are acts of sheer robbery aimed at depriving Palestinians of some of their best land. A mere freezing of settlement activity as required in the 2003 roadmap and supported by the US will not help. The implementation of the Phase 1 of 2003 roadmap would allow Israel to retain the entire settlement project, developed with US support. Israel will thus be able to retain the valuable land within the illegal separation wall, including the primary water supplies of the region and the rich Jordan valley. This will cripple the proposed Palestinian state economically and make it dependent on Israel. Israel's successful operations since 1991 have led to the separation of the West Bank from Gaza, turning the latter into a prison where survival is barely possible. The Palestinian state thus created will be separated from Jerusalem also, which is the centre of Palestinians' cultural, economic and socio political life. Jerusalem belongs to Palestinians and has to be handed over to them. Similarly the right of the exiled Palestinians to return to their lands has to be recognised. Mr Netanyahu's concept of a Palestinian state without an army of its own and without sovereignty over its own airspace indicates that what Israel wants is a state only in name. President Obama's June 5 address in Cairo had aroused hopes in the Muslim world while it had also raised concerns. He had praised the Arab peace initiative, which reiterates the long-standing international consensus calling for two state settlement on the pre-June 1967 international border leading to a permanent peace with Israel. In his address Obama called on the Arab states to proceed with normalisation, studiously ignoring the crucial political settlement that is its precondition. There is a perception that what the Obama administration is really after is somehow or other forcing the Arab states to normalise relations with Israel while hardly moving beyond symbolic gestures to resolve the Palestinian issue. It is also being maintained that what Washington really desires is a front comprising the so-called moderate Arab states and Israel against Iran. A move of the type would alienate Palestinians and the world Muslim community.